Tuesday 27 September 2016

Gardai will get new powers to target emails, Facebook and Whatsapp messages

Published 05/07/2016 | 08:53

New plans: Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Tom Burke
New plans: Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Tom Burke

Gardai are to be given new powers to target the use of emails, social media and messaging services by suspected gangland criminals under new laws being brought to Cabinet today.

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As previously revealed by the Herald, Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is introducing measures surrounding covert surveillance, which could be in place by the end of the year.

The move will see gardai given new powers to intercept Facebook and WhatsApp messages, as well as emails, which are being increasingly used by suspected criminals as a mode of communication.

Ms Fitzgerald is seeking to update legislation that stems from the early eighties and nineties, given the advances that have been made in modern-day communications and social media.

Interception

"The law does not currently provide a clear legislative basis for the interception of these modern, internet-based forms of communication," said a Government source last night.

Ms Fitzgerald announced details of the plans in September in response to the escalating Kinihan-Hutch feud.

It's understood the bill seeks to address what is described as the "international face of organised crime" by facilitating co-operation between Ireland and other member states.

The legislation, which will be voted upon as early as the autumn, will make specific reference for the need to be conscious of respecting peoples' fundamental rights.

Gardai have consistently warned that messaging services are being increasingly used by criminals because the service is encrypted. This means that only the sender and the receiver can see messages.

But the move to target the use of social media sites and instant messenging services could face a challenge by large internet giants like Facebook.

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